Special Report

Best States for Healthy Retirement

50. West Virginia
> Pct. 65+ w/ disability: 41.8% (7th highest)
> Pct. 65+ obese : 25.9% (15th highest)
> Flu vaccine in past year, 65+: 66.4% (18th lowest)
> Life expectancy: 75.4 years (3rd lowest)

Based on a number of measures of health behaviors and outcomes, West Virginia has the least healthy retirees of any state. Physically active elderly adults are less likely to experience frequent physical distress, and in West Virginia, nearly 40% of state residents 65 and older do not engage in even moderate physical activity, the highest share of any state in the country. With low physical activity rates, retirement age adults in the state report an average of 6.9 physically unhealthy days a month, far more than the national average of 5.4 days for the age group.

Life expectancy in West Virginia is especially low at 75 years, roughly three years less than life expectancy nationwide.

49. Mississippi
> Pct. 65+ w/ disability: 43.9% (4th highest)
> Pct. 65+ obese: 27.3% (7th highest)
> Flu vaccine in past year, 65+: 66.1% (15th lowest)
> Life expectancy: 74.5 years (the lowest)

As a state with among the least healthy retirees in the country, Mississippi residents can expect to live to just 74.5 years, the lowest life expectancy in the United States. Mississippi has an elderly obesity rate of 27.3%, one of the highest in the country, and residents 65 and older are more likely to smoke, eat poorly, and live sedentary lifestyles than older Americans nationwide. Obesity and unhealthy behavior can lead to debilitating injuries and illnesses, and 43.9% of Mississippi senior citizens have a disability of some kind, the fourth highest share in the country.

48. Alabama
> Pct. 65+ w/ disability: 40.2% (14th highest)
> Pct. 65+ obese: 26.3% (12th highest)
> Flu vaccine in past year, 65+: 63.2% (5th lowest)
> Life expectancy: 75.2 years (2nd lowest)

Life expectancy in Alabama is only 75.2 years, the second lowest of any state. Shorter lives are partially attributable to unhealthy behaviors among the state’s elderly residents. Less than one-third of retirement age adults in the state eat fruit at least twice daily, a far smaller share than the nearly 42% of Americans 65 and older who do. Alabama’s elderly are also far less likely to be physically active than most older Americans. Only 64.9% of the state’s older residents are physically active, far fewer than the 68.6% national figure.

47. Kentucky
> Pct. 65+ w/ disability: 40.5% (13th highest)
> Pct. 65+ obese: 27.0% (9th highest)
> Flu vaccine in past year, 65+: 67.7% (25th highest)
> Life expectancy: 75.7 years (6th lowest)

Kentucky’s elderly population is among the least healthy in the country. Senior citizens report feeling physically unhealthy nearly 7 days each month, the most in the country. Kentucky residents 65 and older are also among the most likely in the country to be obese, to smoke, and to lead sedentary lifestyles. Unsurprisingly, the state’s life expectancy is just 75.7 years, one of the lowest in the country.

46. Nevada
> Pct. 65+ w/ disability: 37.7% (22nd lowest)
> Pct. 65+ obese: 21.8% (6th lowest)
> Flu vaccine in past year, 65+: 59.3% (the lowest)
> Life expectancy: 77.9 years (17th lowest)

For elderly residents, preventative care and screening is essential to maintaining good health. Senior citizens in Nevada are among the least likely in the country to use preventative medicine. Just 59.3% of senior citizens in Nevada received a flu vaccine in the past year, and just 61.9% received colon cancer screening, each the lowest proportions in the country.

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